2003 turned out to be a good year for European beverage canmakers and, despite the impact of the new German deposit system on one-way packaging, signs for this year are encouraging.

Latest figures show that, discounting the skew of the German market, 2003 saw beverage can shipments increase by more than 5% to reach 38.1bn cans. Beer shipments played a big part in this rise, increasing by 9% – particularly across Eastern Europe where cans are becoming increasingly popular and also in the traditionally strong British and French markets.

Leading canmakers were also able to seize the moment and take advantage of a particularly warm European summer. Caroline Archer-Reed, marketing director, Crown Bevcan Europe and Middle East, commented: “The unusually hot summer across the continent contributed to the soft drinks sector increasing by 3% to nearly 19bn cans.

“This enabled us to work alongside customers to use the can as an innovative marketing tool, creating several one-off promotional campaigns for a number of Spanish, French and Italian fillers.”

Looking to the coming year, Archer Reed said: “While the effects of the situation in Germany will continue to be felt in 2004, there are still many reasons for canmakers to be optimistic about the future.

“Here at Crown, the year has started particularly positively with the impending construction of a new beverage plant in Tunisia, North Africa. This further reinforces our canmaking presence in the southern Mediterranean and in conjunction with our Seville plant makes us one of the leading operators in the region.”

As was the case in 2003, innovation will also play a key role in the continued success of the can over the coming months. Last year Crown helped Heineken successfully introduce a new keg shaped can to a number of European markets and also produced a number of innovative packaging solutions involving laser-etched tabs and full aperture ends to support promotions for customers.

With rival packaging formats constantly evolving, a similar level of activity is expected in 2004.

Archer-Reed concludes: “2004 will undoubtedly provide its own unique challenges but, by remaining at the forefront of functionality, quality and innovation, we can ensure that the beverage can retains and indeed increases its popularity with consumers the length and breadth of Europe.”